Federal Courts

Appeals court strikes down Chicago's restrictions on gun ranges

The U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday handed Chicago another defeat in its effort to restrict the operation of gun ranges in the city.

The appeals court ruled that city ordinances restricting gun ranges to manufacturing areas in Chicago are unconstitutional. The ordinances also placed limits on the distances they can be located in relation to other gun ranges and to residential areas, schools, parks and places of worship.

A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted the city claimed the ordinances serve important public health and safety interests, specifically that they attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead contamination and carry a risk of fire.

"The city has provided no evidentiary support for these claims, nor has it established that limiting shooting ranges to manufacturing districts and distancing them from the multiple and various uses listed in the buffer-zone rule has any connection to reducing these risks," the court wrote in its opinion.

The court also ruled there was no justification for banning of anyone under 18 years from entering a gun range. However, the court says the city can establish a "more closely tailored age restriction" that does not completely extinguish the right of older adolescents and teens to shoot in a supervised firing range.

Judge Ilana Rovner dissented from the majority's opinion on the part of the ruling that struck down the ordinance banning those under 18 years from gun ranges, noting that laws and statutes are employed to protect children from harm, "even where the risk of harm is slight or negligible.

The decision was notable for another reason. One of the three judges on the panel was Diane Sykes, who was on a list of 11 judges President-elect Donald Trump made public last year as among those he would consider as candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A city spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment on the court's ruling.

Chicago has suffered a string of defeats in its efforts to restrict guns, which top officials have cited as a major reason for a sharp rise of violence in the city.

The U.S. Supreme Court forced the city to rewrite its firearms ordinance in June 2010, which had banned the ownership of guns in the city. In response, the city came up with an ordinance outlawing the sale of firearms in the city.

A judge ruled in 2014 the city's ban on gun shops violated the Constitution.

Chicago imposed a blanket ban on shooting ranges in 2010. The Court of Appeals struck down the ban in 2011, prompting the city council to pass ordinances accomplishing the same thing. The Second Amendment Foundation and others took the city to court over the ordinances in 2014.